April 27, 2015

4/26, Morningside Park

Sunday afternoon offered a couple of glimpses of Madeleine the hawk at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, but just glimpses.

But again, down the hill in Morningside Park, it was the egret and cormorant show at the pond.

The double-crested cormorant was making use of the turtle rock to dry off.

Morningside Cormorant - 9112

Morningside Cormorant - 9113

And the great egret was lurking in one of the willow trees on the island.

Morningside Egret - 9141

Morningside Egret - 9142

About the time I left to walk over to Central Park, the cormorant also departed while the egret jumped down to the water to do some fishing.

April 24, 2015

4/24, St. John the Divine

There was hawk activity to watch on Morningside Drive early Friday evening, but what it all meant was very confusing.

Making my third pass of the day by the nest at 6:30, I found Madeleine sitting up and watching the skies.

Cathedral Hawk - 9053

Seemingly mostly to the north.

Cathedral Hawk - 9054

I wondered if dinner delivery was very late and Madeleine was debating whether to go get her own meal.

Cathedral Hawk - 9070

Then after about ten minutes Madeleine left the nest.

Cathedral Hawk - 9073

I found her just up the street, perched on the hospital roof near Norman. I think that's her on the left, but I'm not sure.

Morningside Hawks - 9076

Moments later the hawk on the corner took off to the northwest, over the center of Morningside Park. Maybe that was Norman leaving after a visit. But then the other hawk took off in the same direction.

Minutes ticked by and it seemed the nest was being left unattended for quite a stretch. Finally after another 12 or 13 minutes, I found one of the hawks on the roof of 44 MSD eating a meal.

Morningside Hawk - 9097

A short meal.

Morningside Hawk - 9098

A beak scrape on the cornice, and then off. Say what? Again the hawk took off to the northeast, not back to the nest.

Certainly one of the hawks could have slipped back into the nest unseen as I paced up and down MSD, but as 7:00 slipped by, I wondered just how long the eggs were going untended.

April 23, 2015

4/23, Morningside Park

Manhattan is entering the hawk egg-hatching period. No hatches have been reported although I suspect one site has probably had one. Others should follow by the start of next week. But at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the red-tailed hawks have been especially coy in their high eyrie, even when I have been able to get away from work to see what they might be up to. When a hatch will happen there is anyone's guess.

Meanwhile, down in Morningside Park, great egret visits apparently continue on a daily basis. And this week the double-crested cormorant visits have begun. Early Thursday evening, one of each was present. The egret was lurking in the shadows under the big willow, but the cormorant was drying himself off on the turtle rock.

Drying Off - 8948

Drying Off - 8956

All dry now.

Morningside Cororant - 8966

Morningside Cororant - 8967

Close up.

Cormorant Close-Up - 8973

And reverse side.

Morningside Cororant - 8977

April 14, 2015

4/14, Morningside Park

Although I've had looks at one of the St. John the Divine hawks perching on the roof of St. Luke's hospital in recent days, there has otherwise been little of note at the top of the hill.

But down the hill in Morningside Park, a great egret was working its way through the pond goldfish early Tuesday evening.

One Less Goldfish - 8659

The pond's water level was the lowest I've ever seen it. One wonders if that is to encourage geese to look elsewhere for a nesting site. Certainly it has made it easier for the park cats to wander about the pond islands where geese and ducks have nested in the past.

Morningside Egret - 8667

April 13, 2015

Manhattan Hawk Nest Checklist, 2015

New York City's red-tailed hawks all seem to be in their nests waiting for eggs to hatch, so it's time to review the nesting sites in Manhattan for the season. Last year there were eleven known red-tail nests in Manhattan, ten of which are known to have fledged a total of about 23 baby hawks.

This year, all eleven sites have been confirmed active, although two of the actual nests have moved, one by just 30 feet but the other by around 500 yards. It also looks like there is one new Manhattan nest site for 2015 to make it a round dozen. This checklist will be updated if any others are reported.

  Location Since
1. East Village 2014
2. NYU/Washington Square 2011
3. C.P. Sheep Meadow 2014
4. Fifth Ave. at 74th St. 1995
5. CPW/Beresford 2015
6. West End Ave./80s 2008/2012
7. St. John the Divine 2006
8. CCNY Shepard Hall bef. 2006
9. J. Hood Wright Park 2012
10. Gorman Park 2014
11. Highbridge/Swindler Cove bef. 2007
12. Inwood Hill Park bef. 2004

Of the twelve nest sites, three are in trees and nine are on buildings. Of that latter group, three are on fire escapes, two on window ledges, one on an air conditioner, and three attached to other exterior decoration or ledge.

Working from south to north, the nests are:

East Village/Tompkins Square Park/Ageloff Towers:
Tompkins Square was for several years a reliable spot to find juvenile hawks during winter. In 2014 it finally got its own nesting pair of adults, who built on an air conditioner on the Christadora building at the corner of Avenue B and East 9th St. Three babies were successfully raised by Dora and Christo. However, the nest was removed in February 2015 as the building prepared for exterior renovations, and the hawks have moved a few blocks southwest to an air conditioner at the Ageloff Towers at Avenue A and 3rd St. This is not the best spot as there is no nice green space just across the street. The first egg was laid about March 24.
+ For more about this nest, follow the Gog in NYC blog.
+ Webcam footage of the nest is available on UStream

Greenwich Village/NYU/Washington Square:
This downtown nest was first constructed in 2011 on a window ledge at NYU's Bobst Library, outside the university president's office and overlooking Washington Square Park. This site has vied with the Fifth Ave. nest for Manhattan's earliest hatch site. The male since the nest was first built has been Bobby, named for the Bobst library. There is a new female in 2015 whom some have named Sadie, replacing Rosie who disappeared in late summer or autumn 2014. The first egg was confirmed in the nest on March 25.
+ For more about this nest, follow the Urban Hawks and roger_paw blogs.

Sheep Meadow Hawk Nest - 8378

Central Park/Sheep Meadow:
After a couple of years of adult red-tail activity in the Plaza Hotel area and around the southeast corner of Central Park, a pair of hawks built a nest inside the park in 2014 in a tree on the east side of the Sheep Meadow. Despite all the human activity that was going on just below once the weather got warm, they successfully raised two babies.

Fifth Ave./74th St.:
Possibly the most famous hawk nest in the world, located on a ritzy Fifth Ave. co-op apartment building overlooking the Central Park Boat Pond. Although there was rapid turnover in the female hawks at the nest in recent few years (a disappearance, a case of rat-poisoning, and who knows what else), the constant is that Palemale has ruled this area of Central Park for about 20 years. Since 2013, the female has been Octavia. After a long dry spell, there have been baby hawk hatches here since 2011. In 2015, Octavia began brooding sometime before March 29.
+ For more about this nest, follow the PaleMale.com website and Urban Hawks blog.

Central Park West/Beresford:
There is often a fair amount hawk activity along Central Park West in winter (particularly to the north) and there was apparently a new pair of red-tails hanging around the Beresford apartments at 81st St. last year, where famous Palemale and his mate often used to perch. (They may have been the duo who tried to nest around 91st St. back in 2013.) No nest came about last year, but in early April, it was confirmed that the new hawks were nesting at the Beresford, with the nest high up in the oval window ledge of the southeast tower, overlooking CPW and the park.

Riverside Park/West End Ave./West 80s:
Red-tails have nested in the vicinity of Riverside Park and 79th St. since 2008, with the first pair of hawks preferring trees near the river close to the Boat Basin cafe. The current pair moved the nest inland and north in 2012, choosing a spot high up on a fire escape on the back side of a West End Ave. apartment building in the 80s. One baby hawk fledged from here in 2014.

Morningside Heights/Cathedral of St. John the Divine:
Although there was a nesting attempt in 2000, hawks are only known to have nested at "St. John the Unfinished" since 2006. Despite construction of a new apartment building going on just 50 yards from the nest site, they have returned for another go-round in 2015. However, the old nest site was getting very cramped, and either that or the construction has presumably prompted the hawks to move sticks to a new location about 30 feet from the old. The new nest is at the east end of the cathedral in the turret above the big statue of St. Peter on the apse wall (look for the statue holding a set of keys), overlooking Morningside Drive and Morningside Park. The male hawk is believed to be the male who first arrived in 2008 and is known as Norman. The new female in 2015 is Madeleine; she replaces the female who died of frounce last June.

There used to be a red-tail nest on Randalls Island just outside Icahn Stadium, but the hawks abandoned the site before the 2014 nesting season. Probably this was because of harassment from the peregrine falcons who nest atop the psychiatric center to the south.

(Ed note: We insert here a nest in Morningside Heights/Grant's Tomb. Although there were rumors of adult hawks in this area in mid-spring, we did not learn that there was a nest at this location until early July.)

CCNY Hawks (8261)

Hamilton Heights/CCNY/Shepard Hall:
There has been a nest located on a gargoyle high up the east side of CCNY's Shepard Hall, overlooking St. Nicholas Terrace and St. Nicholas Park, for a decade or more. It's a tough nest to watch because it's so high up, and often one never hears whether baby hawks were fledged here. Last year's activity was particularly odd and some of us wondered if the nest had failed.

Washington Heights/Wright Park:
Entering its fourth season, this fire escape nest site overlooks J. Hood Wright Park on Fort Washington Ave. For safety reasons, the nest has been removed each year after the baby hawks have fledged, but the adults keep returning and rebuilding. New sticks were already in place this year in early February. The first two years, the Wright Park hawks were late nesters. In 2014 they moved their schedule up and were one of the earliest, fledging three babies.

Fort George/Gorman Park/Fairview Ave.:
New in 2014 was a fire escape nest just north of Gorman Park along Fairview Ave., overlooking Broadway and the southern Dyckman Valley area. The northwest part of the Gorman hawks' range includes Fort Tryon Park. Despite it being the first time for this site, the hawks successfully fledged three babies. In 2015, it looks like this nest could be the earliest to see a hatch, as three eggs were confirmed in the nest by March 22.

Highbridge George & Martha - 5226

Highbridge Park/Swindler Cove:
The Highbridge hawks are tree-nesters, and they have had a tendency to move around, albeit within the same general area. Twice the move has been caused by damage to a nesting tree by a winter storm. Nevertheless, it looks like their 2015 nest is the same spot they've used the previous two years, directly above the park path near the three-way intersection of Harlem River Drive, Tenth Ave., and Dyckman St., and directly across HRD from Swindler Cove Park. Although not high up, it is difficult to get a good sightline on, especially once the trees start leafing out. The nest fledged one baby hawk in 2014, possibly two. The nesting pair here are known as Martha and George, as their nest locations in 2006-2009 were up the hill closer to George Washington High School.

Inwood Hill Park:
The hawk nest in Inwood is one of the oldest in the Manhattan, possibly the oldest. Certainly it was well established by 2004. Except for 2013, the nest has apparently always been in one of the trees in the ravine south of the playing field and close to Shorrakapoch Rock. (The one year of nesting elsewhere was likely caused by great horned owls also nesting in the ravine at the time.) Inwood used to be the first nest to hatch every year, but more recently it has followed the Washington Square and Fifth Ave. nests by a few days.

Mid-season updates to this checklist were posted here (1), here (2), here (3), and here (4).

Previous nest lists were posted in: 2014, 2013 and 2012.

April 8, 2015

4/8, St. John the Divine

Early Wednesday evening offered looks at both red-tailed hawks at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in the air over Morningside Drive, but the gloomy skies made decent photos difficult.

Why both were in the air wasn't entirely clear. Possibly it was a switch-off that didn't follow the usual scheme; perhaps it was a case of the bird in the nest taking a very quick stroll. In any event, I had moved to a position in Morningside Park that I thought offered a decent sightline to the nest and turned around to find that there was a bird in the air over Morningside Drive. But there was also one standing up in the nest.

Cathedral Hawk 1 - 8531

The hawk in the nest promptly jumped out.

Cathedral Hawk 1 - 8532

Cathedral Hawk 1 - 8533

Did a single circle above the street and then was back in the nest in 20 seconds.

The first hawk seen was still in the area. After circling behind trees and behind the cathedral apse it came back out in view.

Cathedral Hawk 2 - 8557

Take a really close look and you can see that although the belly band on both hawks looks similar, this bird is missing some wing feathers, either due to damage or because molting has already started.

Cathedral Hawk 2 - 8558

A big circle out over Morningside Park, and then this hawk was off to the southeast toward Central Park.

April 4, 2015

4/4, Sheep Meadow

The nests above 110th St. having all been visited in the past month, on Saturday I decided to try southward. I was rewarded with a good look at one of the adults who nest on the edge of Central Park's Sheep Meadow.

First sight of the hawk was high up a tree south of the nest, but a few moments later it flew over to the nest.

Sheep Meadow Hawk Nest - 8378

It stayed for less than a minute, and there was no switch-off on egg-tending. Pix did show, however, that the other hawk was down in the nest.

The hawk, presumably the male, took off to the east towards the Mall. Following along, I found it ripping into a meal.

Sheep Meadow Hawk - 8403

Something with fur.

Sheep Meadow Hawk - 8406

Sheep Meadow Hawk - 8409

Which proved to be a rat, but apparently just half of one, or a small one.

Sheep Meadow Hawk - 8420

Sheep Meadow Hawk - 8419

Dinner lasted less than 15 minutes.

Sheep Meadow Hawk - 8424

A large fraction of the meal when down in one messy gulp. Then it was time to clean the schmaltz off the beak.

Sheep Meadow Hawk - 8458

And look around for a couple minutes.

Sheep Meadow Hawk - 8471

Sheep Meadow Hawk - 8474

Fly back to check on the nest for a moment or two, and then the male was off and away.

As the sun got lower in the sky, the head of the Sheep Meadow female could just be seen poking up from the nest.

April 3, 2015

4/3, St. John the Divine

Friday afternoon about 2:00, Madeleine the red-tailed hawk was sitting up in her nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. She was easily seen from down at the corner of Morningside and 110th St.

Commanding View - 8303

Look closer.

Commanding View, Inset - 8303

But not so easily spottable from along Morningside below the nest.

Peekaboo - 8311

And as to why she was sitting up, and for 5-10 minutes, good question. Perhaps she was trying to dry off now that the drizzle was coming to a stop.

April 1, 2015

4/1, St. John the Divine

Checking on the hawk nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine the middle of Wednesday afternoon, I got a good look at one of the hawk circling over Morningside Park.

First up around the turtle pond.

Madeleine Over Morningside - 8235

And working south.

Madeleine Over Morningside - 8236

The darkness of the belly band suggests that this Madeleine, although I'd really like to get a good look at her and Norman together just to be sure I can tell their markings apart.

Madeleine Over Morningside - 8237

For a moment it looked like the hawk was going to fly up to the nest.

Madeleine Over Morningside - 8239

But a quick turn left.

Madeleine Over Morningside - 8242

And away she went out over southwest Harlem.

Madeleine Over Morningside - 8246